Kenya Runners Training Camp
AP

Inside Kenya distance running training camp (photos)

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KAPTAGAT, Kenya (AP) — The hand-written roster — misspelled “rosta” — tells the runners when it’s their turn for communal chores. Stephen Kiprotich‘s name is on it. So is Eliud Kipchoge‘s.

At the Olympic Games, World Championships and the biggest marathons, both men are stars. But in the high-altitude training camp in western Kenya where they live like monks, they muck out shared toilets and do the washing up just like everyone else.

Kiprotich and Kipchoge are convinced their no-frills lifestyle is vital for their success. With their wealth, they could cover themselves with bling. Instead, they draw washing water from an outdoor well, drink milk from cows that graze the surrounding fields and share cramped bedrooms with other athletes.

On the wall above Kipchoge’s bed, the Olympic 5000m silver medalist in 2008 and bronze medalist in 2004 has hung a nugget of wisdom from Brazilian author Paulo Coelho — “If you want to be successful, you must respect one rule: Never lie to yourself.”

The winner of the London, Berlin and Chicago marathons is both philosophical and frustrated about the doping crisis corroding the hard-earned reputation of Kenyan running, with 38 athletes banned since the East African nation won 11 medals at the 2012 Games in London.

Kipchoge blames the short-sighted pursuit of money.

“People forget that money cannot be harvested,” he says. “If you want to harvest the money, you need to plant the seeds. And what are the seeds? The seeds are hard training.”

Ochre-red dust ferrets itself into the smile-lines on his face and clings to his eyelashes and hairs on his legs during a punishing training run through the forest that he and dozens of other athletes from separate training camps meet up for before dawn.

By training together, the runners spur each other on, Kipchoge says.

“I help them, they help me,” he says. “This is mutual interest.”

The jangle of a bicycle bell screwed to the wall in the dormitory corridor signals the 5 a.m. start of the day at the Global Sports camp that Kiprotich and Kipchoge share with about a dozen other runners from Kenya and abroad.

They eat breakfast together around a plain wooden table in the kitchen hut, washing down sliced white bread with tea from a giant aluminum kettle, drunk from plain enamel tin mugs. Water is boiled in a blackened, wood-fired stove. Washed plates, mugs and cutlery are left in the sun to dry.

The communal recreation room has a small TV, a rare concession to modernity, and also doubles as a storage area for sacks of grain. Runners get leg-rubs on a massage table in one corner. The athletes’ training programs, scribbled by hand on torn-off sheets of paper, are pinned to the wall by the door.

Abdi Nageeye, a Somali-born Dutch athlete, is training for the first time at the camp. He was initially shocked by the Spartan conditions and “really starving from hunger.” But he has come to understand how it allows stars like Kipchoge to shut themselves off from outside distractions.

“His friends, they always want something from him,” he says. “It’s better for him to escape to here, no one will disrupt him.”

Nageeye and Kiprotich both say it wouldn’t be possible for a runner at the camp to dope without others knowing, because they live in such close proximity and barge into each other’s rooms without knocking.

Kiprotich, the Olympic marathon champion in 2012 and World champion in 2013, says drug testers regularly visit the camp unannounced to collect samples. He says he doesn’t understand why any athlete would dope.

“It seems that the athletes who do that, they want to make a shortcut, they don’t want to follow a long route,” he says.

The camp, he adds, “is the long route.”

It has been the Ugandan’s training base for six years. He says he loses track of days that blend into a blur of training, chores, and down-time.

“We live like soldiers and the reason I say that is because we do all the work. When the cook is not around, we cook for ourselves. On top of that we do training, and training must continue. If it is your time to do such and such a job, you make sure you do it very fast.”

“Rule number one: all athletes are equal,” he explains. “It doesn’t matter if you are a champion or an Olympic champion or an upcoming athlete, we are all the same.”

MORE: Full NBC Olympic trials broadcast schedule

In this Jan. 30, 2016, photo Kenyan long-distance runner Geoffrey Kipsang Kamworor checks messages on his phone as he receives an after-training massage at the Global Sports camp near the village of Kaptagat in western Kenya. At the high-altitude training camp in Kenya, star athletes turn their back on modernity and bling for a simple life of hard training and communal, egalitarian living. (AP Photo/Ben Curtis)
In this Jan. 30, 2016, photo Kenyan long-distance runner Geoffrey Kipsang Kamworor checks messages on his phone as he receives an after-training massage at the Global Sports camp near the village of Kaptagat in western Kenya. At the high-altitude training camp in Kenya, star athletes turn their back on modernity and bling for a simple life of hard training and communal, egalitarian living. (AP Photo/Ben Curtis)
In this Jan. 30, 2016, photo winner of the London, Berlin and Chicago marathons Eliud Kipchoge, left, prepares to change clothes after his morning training run, in the small bedroom he shares with fellow runner Tareq Mubarak Taher, right, who represents Bahrain, at the Global Sports camp near the village of Kaptagat in western Kenya. At the high-altitude training camp in Kenya, star athletes turn their back on modernity and bling for a simple life of hard training and communal, egalitarian living. (AP Photo/Ben Curtis)
In this Jan. 30, 2016, photo winner of the London, Berlin and Chicago marathons Eliud Kipchoge, left, prepares to change clothes after his morning training run, in the small bedroom he shares with fellow runner Tareq Mubarak Taher, right, who represents Bahrain, at the Global Sports camp near the village of Kaptagat in western Kenya. At the high-altitude training camp in Kenya, star athletes turn their back on modernity and bling for a simple life of hard training and communal, egalitarian living. (AP Photo/Ben Curtis)
In this Jan. 30, 2016, photo sweat-soaked clothes are draped over bushes to dry in the sun, as runner Nicholas Rotich takes a rest after the morning training run, at the Global Sports camp near the village of Kaptagat in western Kenya. At the high-altitude training camp in Kenya, star athletes turn their back on modernity and bling for a simple life of hard training and communal, egalitarian living. (AP Photo/Ben Curtis)
In this Jan. 30, 2016, photo sweat-soaked clothes are draped over bushes to dry in the sun, as runner Nicholas Rotich takes a rest after the morning training run, at the Global Sports camp near the village of Kaptagat in western Kenya. At the high-altitude training camp in Kenya, star athletes turn their back on modernity and bling for a simple life of hard training and communal, egalitarian living. (AP Photo/Ben Curtis)
In this Jan. 30, 2016, photo a hand-written roster pinned to the wall tells runners when it’s their turn to do communal chores, at the Global Sports camp near the village of Kaptagat in western Kenya. At the high-altitude training camp in Kenya, star athletes turn their back on modernity and bling for a simple life of hard training and communal, egalitarian living. (AP Photo/Ben Curtis)
In this Jan. 30, 2016, photo a hand-written roster pinned to the wall tells runners when it’s their turn to do communal chores, at the Global Sports camp near the village of Kaptagat in western Kenya. At the high-altitude training camp in Kenya, star athletes turn their back on modernity and bling for a simple life of hard training and communal, egalitarian living. (AP Photo/Ben Curtis)
In this Jan. 30, 2016, photo winner of the London, Berlin and Chicago marathons Eliud Kipchoge, center right, stretches with other athletes after their morning training run in Kaptagat Forest in western Kenya. At a high-altitude training camp in Kenya, star athletes turn their back on modernity and bling for a simple life of hard training and communal, egalitarian living. (AP Photo/Ben Curtis)
In this Jan. 30, 2016, photo winner of the London, Berlin and Chicago marathons Eliud Kipchoge, center right, stretches with other athletes after their morning training run in Kaptagat Forest in western Kenya. At a high-altitude training camp in Kenya, star athletes turn their back on modernity and bling for a simple life of hard training and communal, egalitarian living. (AP Photo/Ben Curtis)
In this Jan. 30, 2016, photo winner of the London, Berlin and Chicago marathons Eliud Kipchoge, second right, trains with other athletes just after dawn in Kaptagat Forest in western Kenya. At a high-altitude training camp in Kenya, star athletes turn their back on modernity and bling for a simple life of hard training and communal, egalitarian living. (AP Photo/Ben Curtis)
In this Jan. 30, 2016, photo winner of the London, Berlin and Chicago marathons Eliud Kipchoge, second right, trains with other athletes just after dawn in Kaptagat Forest in western Kenya. At a high-altitude training camp in Kenya, star athletes turn their back on modernity and bling for a simple life of hard training and communal, egalitarian living. (AP Photo/Ben Curtis)
In this Jan. 30, 2016, photo a bicycle bell used to signal the athletes' 5 a.m. start of the day, hangs on the wall of the dormitory corridor at the Global Sports camp near the village of Kaptagat in western Kenya. At the high-altitude training camp in Kenya, star athletes turn their back on modernity and bling for a simple life of hard training and communal, egalitarian living. (AP Photo/Ben Curtis)
In this Jan. 30, 2016, photo a bicycle bell used to signal the athletes’ 5 a.m. start of the day, hangs on the wall of the dormitory corridor at the Global Sports camp near the village of Kaptagat in western Kenya. At the high-altitude training camp in Kenya, star athletes turn their back on modernity and bling for a simple life of hard training and communal, egalitarian living. (AP Photo/Ben Curtis)

2020 French Open women’s singles draw, bracket

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If Serena Williams is to win a record-tying 24th Grand Slam singles title at the French Open, she may have to go through her older sister in the fourth round.

Williams, the sixth seed, could play Venus Williams in the round of 16 at Roland Garros, which begins Sunday.

Serena opens against countrywoman Kristie Ahn, whom she beat in the first round at the U.S. Open. Serena could then get her U.S. Open quarterfinal opponent, fellow mom Tsvetana Pironkova of Bulgaria, in the second round.

If Venus is to reach the fourth round, she must potentially get past U.S. Open runner-up Victoria Azarenka in the second round. Azarenka beat Serena in the U.S. Open semifinals, ending the American’s latest bid to tie Margaret Court‘s major titles record.

Venus lost in the French Open first round the last two years.

The French Open top seed is 2018 champion Simona Halep, who could play 2019 semifinalist Amanda Anisimova in the third round.

Coco Gauff, the rising 16-year-old American, gets 2019 semifinalist Jo Konta of Great Britain in the first round in the same quarter of the draw as Halep.

The field lacks defending champion Ash Barty of Australia, not traveling due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Also out: U.S. Open winner Naomi Osaka, citing a sore hamstring and tight turnaround from prevailing in New York two weeks ago.

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2020 French Open men’s singles draw, bracket

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Rafael Nadal was put into the same half of the French Open draw as fellow 2018 and 2019 finalist Dominic Thiem of Austria, with top-ranked Novak Djokovic catching a break.

Nadal, trying to tie Roger Federer‘s male record 20 Grand Slam singles titles, could play sixth-seeded German Alexander Zverev in the quarterfinals before a potential clash with Thiem, who just won the U.S. Open.

Djokovic, who is undefeated in 2020 save being defaulted out of the U.S. Open, could play No. 7 seed Matteo Berrettini of Italy in the quarterfinals before a possible semifinal with Russian Daniil Medvedev.

Medvedev is the fourth seed but is 0-3 at the French Open. Another possible Djokovic semifinal opponent is fifth seed Stefanos Tsitsipas of Greece, who reached the fourth round last year.

The most anticipated first-round matchup is between three-time major champion Andy Murray and 2015 French Open champion Stan Wawrinka. In Murray’s most recent French Open match, he lost in five sets to Wawrinka in the 2017 semifinals.

FRENCH OPEN DRAWS: Men | Women | TV Schedule

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